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Phase one of Narok elephant translocation completed

Date Published: 04 Oct, 2011
Phase one of Narok elephant translocation completed

KWS officials load an elephant on to a truck to be transported to the Mara.

Phase one of elephant translocation into the Maasai Mara by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has been successfully completed. By the end of the exercise, 62 elephants had been moved from Narok North to the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok South to eliminate human elephant conflict and improve community livelihoods. The exercise was planned in phases to allow post-release monitoring of the translocated elephants.  So far, the elephants are settling down well in the Maasai Mara as KWS scientists continue with the capture and release sites monitoring. The second phase of the exercise targeting the remaining estimated 140 elephants will resume once the post-release monitoring results are ready, end of short rains and elephant immobilising drugs are bought. The elephant immobilisation drugs acquisition is regulated by the International Narcotics Board (INB) and KWS is required to apply for more drugs through Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB).  KWS plans to fast track the purchase of the elephant immobilising drugs, including the international approvals.  Short rains, which run from October to December, have just started and were impairing the movement of trucks carrying the elephants.  

Four of the translocated elephants were fitted with GSM collar chips to monitor their movements. Two of them were observed to have crossed over to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania for two days but have since returned to the Maasai Mara.   The Minister of State for National Heritage and Culture Hon William ole Ntimama, who is also the Narok North Member of Parliament, presided over the elephant translocation closing ceremony at which he appealed to the area residents to plant trees and practice agro-forestry as well as reduce charcoal burning. The two-week translocation was also witnessed by a German team led by the Germany Ambassador to Kenya, HE Margit Hellwig-Boette.  Earlier during the launch of the translocation, KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich had also noted that the current rate of charcoal burning in Narok North was unsustainable and called on local communities to adopt agro-forestry by planting trees, particularly during the coming short rains.  

He said the remaining Maasai Mara National Reserve elephant dispersal areas, especially Olkinyei, Siana, Nkosuani, Lemek and other group ranches should not subdivided.  Instead, he said, they should be encouraged to form conservancies and pledged KWS support in looking for investors to foster revenue from tourism to improve community livelihoods. As part of the Kenya Wildlife Service community outreach programme, the organisation is funding a water project at Olopito and three classrooms at Olkeri as part of the translocation.  Human elephant conflict hotspots in Narok are Oloreto, Olkeri, Erusiayi, Olengapopo, Olopito and many more.   

Local communities and their leaders, especially lawmakers and councillors, have also been sensitised about the exercise and are supportive of the translocation as the long-term solution to the current problem. A long-term post-release monitoring plan has been put in place, which will include deploying GSM collars to the translocated elephants to guide proactive action in the event the elephants attempt to return to the capture area. Rapid change in lifestyle of local communities from pastoralism to crop farming and other incompatible land-use practices has tremendously led to increased human wildlife conflict in the Narok County. Such conflict in many areas is mainly attributed to increased human population and loss of elephant habitat due to uncontrolled human activities, especially crop farming, charcoal burning and human settlements.

Narok North is currently designated as one of the human-wildlife conflict (HWC) hotspots in the country with elephants identified as the most problematic wildlife species. Long-term monitoring of elephant movements in the affected area through satellite tracking has established that about 200 elephants have been cut off from the greater Mara ecosystem and are currently considered a sub-population of the Mara. Out of the 9,299 human wildlife conflict cases reported in the last 10 years at the KWS Narok Station, 5,052 (54 per cent) are attributed to elephants. Common impacts of human elephant conflict include human deaths, human injuries, crop destruction, human threats/obstruction, other property destruction.  

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